Hannah Reeves is a 3rd year student working between the National Railway Museum and Keele University.
The title of her PhD is ‘The “railway family” 1900–1948’. Before this, Hannah worked as an Explainer in the Learning Department at the NRM.
Where did your research project come from?
Through working at the National Railway Museum (NRM), I identified that there was very little interpretation about the role of women within the railway industry, so it is extremely gratifying to be involved in shaping ideas for future displays that deal with this theme. I heard about the AHRC CDP scheme through an advert on the Science Museum Group intranet, then got in touch with the co-ordinator to register my interest and my desire to work on a project that considered the role of women in the railway industry. Fortuitously, the NRM were putting together an application for a CDP focusing on that topic.
What attracted you to the AHRC CDP ‘route’ to doing your PhD?
The collaborative nature of the CDP scheme appealed to me. My MA was in Museum Studies, and I have wanted to work in the museum sector for a number of years. The CDP scheme allowed me to continue my professional development within a museum setting, but also allowed me to pursue research in the field of women’s history, which has been an area of particular interest to me since I was introduced to the idea during my A-Levels. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to do a PhD, let alone one which combines my two passions, so I am very grateful for the opportunity.
What aspect of women in the railway industry does your research look at?
My thesis examines the creation of a railway community through the idea of the ‘railway family’. This idea was used by railway company and trade unions to encourage loyalty and service to both institutions, and was able to draw in the non-working family members of railwaymen. I am particularly interested in the effect the idea of the ‘railway family’ had on women: as workers, wives and as members of trade union auxiliaries.
How is your research already shaping how the National Railway Museum understands its collections?
The NRM is using my research in their Masterplan for the redevelopment of the Great buy accutane online Hall, as the museum lacks interpretation which focuses specifically on women and the railway industry. I also enjoy public engagement and outreach events, as I get to use the skills I developed as an Explainer at the NRM, ensuring that my research is accessible and interesting to a variety of different audiences in numerous formats.
Has your CDP allowed you to become involved in other types of projects?
I have participated in two YorNight events: a European researcher’s evening, which showcased the research being undertaken at the museum, and a reminiscence session for a group of visitors with dementia. In 2015, I presented at the NRM’s annual Family History conference, which had the ‘railway family’ as its theme. This was very rewarding, and allowed me the opportunity to discuss my ideas with other researchers involved more generally in the study of railways, or in family and social history. Additionally, the Institute of Railway Studies (IRS), a partnership between the NRM and the University of York, facilitate networking and research opportunities, and I have presented a paper in its regular seminar series. Through IRS connections, I was able to act as a guest speaker for a group of Postgraduate Diploma students on their residential study weekend at the NRM.
Are there any new skills you’ve developed?
As my supervisor is the Archivist at the NRM, I have had great opportunities to work on archival projects, an area with which I have had little previous experience. I created the catalogue for the records of the Southern Railway Servants Orphanage [link: http://archives.sciencemuseumgroup.ac.uk/Details/archive/110071552] at Woking This project required me to identify links between a variety of documents, including photograph albums, newspaper reports and advertising material. I also wrote catalogue descriptions and have even advised on the acquisition of records concerning the Orphanage.
What are your plans for the future?
I have uncovered areas of potential research about women in the railway industry, in trade unions and in society in the first half of the twentieth century, and I would enjoy the challenge of taking these projects forward. I know that I would like to make sure that any research I do undertake has a collaborative focus, as I believe this has great value for all involved.